Oeuvre poétique

Year: 1957

Author: Robert Ganzo (1898 - 1995)

Artist: Jacques Villon (1875 - 1963)

Publisher: Sautier

Oeuvre poétique, title page and frontispiece: portrait of Robert Ganzoby Jacques Villon

Oeuvre poétique, the collected work of poet Robert Ganzo, illustrated by the famous 'peintre-graveur' Jacques Villon, is mentioned in several works on artists' books as an important book that always fetches a high price at auctions. The copy in the Koopman Collection is extra special because it is one of only ten copies printed on imperial Japanese paper. This copy also contains an original drawing by Villon for the etching of 'Résurgences' (p. 118) and extra prints of the etchings have been bound into the rear of the book (a suite in first state and one printed in reddish brown), bringing this copy's total number of etchings to 24; also, an original copperplate for the colour etching of 'Domaine' (p. 75) has been included in the front. The entire edition was signed by the artist and the author.

Artistic family

Jacques Villon was highly active as a book illustrator. He worked on thirty-odd illustrated works, such as Virgil's Les Bucoliques, translated by Paul Valéry, and Le grand testament by fifteenth-century poet François Villon – from whom the painter derived his pseudonym, because he recognized him as a kindred spirit. Jacques Villon also produced the illustrations for special editions of collections of poetry by contemporary writers such as Tristan Tzara and Paul Éluard. He loved the work of young poets, and therefore was receptive to the proposal by book dealer, publisher and art expert Marcel Sautier to illustrate Robert Ganzo's collected poems with his etchings. Sautier would publish work by Ganzo again nine years later, when he had the poet's most famous poem Lespugue illustrated by Zadkine.

Jacques Villon was Gaston Duchamp's nom d'artiste – Dadaist Marcel Duchamp's oldest brother. In order not to upset his parents – they had no faith in a career in fine arts – Gaston published work under this pseudonym. But in spite of the Duchamp couple’s negative attitude, four of their six children ultimately opted for careers as artists. In 1894 Villon went to Paris to study, supporting himself by producing illustrations for popular magazines such as L'assiette au beurre. He was also active as an engraver of prints – there was a large market for reproductions of paintings by artists like Renoir, Matisse and Cezanne. His activities as an illustrator and engraver kept him from painting until 1910. Not until after World War II did Jacques Villon experience his national breakthrough as an artist. Once his international reputation had been established, he dedicated himself to graphic work again, mainly book illustrations. He was highly acclaimed within France: after his death, he was honoured with a state funeral.

  • Voor- en achterplat van boekband door Henri Mercher

The golden section

In 1912, Jacques founded the 'groupe de la Section d'Or' together with artists he knew (Francis Picabia, Fernand Léger and his brothers Marcel Duchamp and Raymon Duchamp-Villon. The group was named after the theory of proportions demonstrated by Leonardo da Vinci, which was based on the golden section. Villon would later continue to apply the golden section in his Cubist work. That made his work systematic, orderly and harmonious, as opposed to the more expressive Cubism of Picasso, for instance.

For Oeuvre poétique, Villon produced eight etchings, two of which are in colour. The variation in the etchings makes the work both aesthetically and technically accomplished: not only are there colour etchings and etchings with aquatint, but there are also various presentations: a portrait of the poet, sketches of female nudes, and abstract compositions. The copy in the Koopman Collection is a deluxe edition: both the texts and the etchings are printed on Japanese paper.


The binding was produced by Mercher. Bookbinder Henri Mercher (1912-1976) was a student of Robert Bonfils (one of the first members of the Société de la Reliure Originale) at the École Estienne. Mercher himself used to say that he was one of the worst students. He worked from 1935 onwards, and after World War II, he also occupied himself with the design of bindings. He became famous first and foremost due to his choice for unorthodox materials such as Plexiglas. But his leather bindings also became well-known, mostly on account of his strong eye for detail. This copy has all edges gilt and the inner deckles of the upper and lower board have been covered with blue and purple suede. The leather binding is a composition of black circles and lines with round planes of colour within them: yellow, blue, brown, grey, and green. The binding bears a protective cover and a slipcase.


  • Koperplaat, ingelegd aan de binnenzijde van het voorplat

Bibliographical description

Description: Oeuvre poétique / Robert Ganzo ; ill. de huit eaux-fortes orig. par Jacques Villon. - Paris : Sautier, 1957. - [129] p. : ill. ; 29 cm Drukker Jean Paul Vibert (tekst) Georges Leblanc (etsen)

Edition: 185 copies

This copy: 8 of 10 on Imperial Japanese paper

Typeface: Caslon

Bookbinder: Henri Mercher (1960)

Note: With an original drawing, a copperplate, an extra set of illustrations in the first state and an extra set printed in red-brown, Signed by the author and the artist

Bibliography: Bénézit 14-254 ; Monod-5115 ; Prout II-57-04

Shelfmark: KW Koopm K 316


  • Pierre Cabanne, Les 3 Duchamp: Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Marcel Duchamp. Neuchâtel, Ides et Calendes, 1975
  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voix et visions. La Collection Koopman et l'Art du Livre français. La Haye, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Bibliothèque nationale des Pays-Bas; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
  • J. Flety, Dictionnaire des relieurs français ayant exercé de 1800 a nos jours, suivi d'un guide pratique des relieurs, doreurs, marbreurs et restaurateurs contemporains. Paris, Éditions Technorama, 1988
  • Irene M. de Groot, Jacques Villon: Grafiekuit een particuliere verzameling. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1984
  • Jacques Villon Paris, Éditions des musées nationaux, 1975
  • W.J. Strachan, The artist and the book in France: The 20th century livre d'artiste. London,Owen, 1969